OBETZ, Ohio — Duncan Oughton was the Columbus Crew’s No. 1 pick in 2001 out of Cal State Fullerton and is today the longest tenured player. The 32-year-old midfielder has won titles, suffered a serious knee injury and been part of some really bad teams. But he’s kept his sense of humor the whole way.
Ahead of Saturday's "Battle of the Best" between Columbus and the LA Galaxy, MLSsoccer.com sat down with the New Zealander.
MLSsoccer.com: You thought coming out of college that you were going to play for the Galaxy?
Oughton: I did. They told me they were going to draft me but I came to Columbus and it was the best thing in the world.
MLSsoccer.com: Didn’t you train with LA?
Oughton: They had a little combine thing. They asked me not to go to the [MLS] combine so they could pick me up in the lower rounds. I said, it didn’t make sense to me, so I’m going. Then they told me down at the combine I had to sign [with MLS] before the draft because they were going to draft me.
Rumor had it they were going to use the 11th pick on me. Columbus had the 10th. Hey, it worked out perfect.
MLSsoccer.com: Why do you say it was the best thing coming to Columbus?
Oughton: I’ve loved it here – great time and great people. The organization has treated me pretty well over the years. We’ve won a championship here, an Open Cup and three Supporters’ Shields. Not bad.
MLSsoccer.com: Those were the highs. What about the low periods for this franchise when it missed the postseason from 2005-07?
Oughton: We won the Supporters’ Shield in 2004 and I hurt my knee in the last playoff game when we got knocked out [in the first round] when I thought we were the best team in the league by far. I didn’t play the next year because of surgery after the injury and we didn’t make the playoffs.
Then Sigi [Schmid] came in and I didn’t play the first half of 2006 and we were on a 13-game skid and I’m sitting in the stands like, ‘Wow. I’m going to be back soon and look what I’m coming back to.’
The year after that was obviously another tough year, but then the locker room started to come together again and there was the championship in ‘08. We won the Supporters’ Shield last year. The highs have definitely outweighed the lows.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the immediate future hold?
Oughton: I don’t know. Obviously a big dream got shot down with the World Cup. It was in my fingertips and people back home and a lot of players on the team are still asking what the ‘F’ happened?
I am, too. I don’t know how I’m not on the team. I get to work on a new dream. I just don’t know what it is at the moment.
MLSsoccer.com: You used the punching bag in your home to get rid of the initial frustration of being left off the squad, how are you coping now?
Oughton: There’s a guy here who’s probably a lot unluckier than I am. Frankie [Hejduk] should be on the [US] team.
It helps watching his positive attitude and knowing there are other things in life – he just had another child. I got to spend some time with him and his family. It makes things so much easier when you put things in perspective.
MLSsoccer.com: What do you do when you’re mistaken for an Aussie?
Oughton: Usually I’m being set up by one of the guys on the team having people come up to me and ask if I’m Australian. Depending on who is asking, I’ll have a laugh with them and then correct them quickly.
MLSsoccer.com: Speaking of Down Under, Vegemite is kind of a bitter tasting, pasty but very popular food in Australia and New Zealand. What is it and why hasn’t it caught on in America?
Oughton: It’s a yeast spread that makes you strong. There’s old guys who will eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s an acquired taste. It’s battling with pizza and ranch dressing here. It’s an uphill battle.
MLSsoccer.com: You are known for calling someone a “Muppet.” How did that get started and what does it mean?
Oughton: It’s a thing we say in New Zealand. When you’re younger you call people a Muppet. It’s just a dumbs--- type of guy. If you’re a Muppet, you’re acting like a felt puppy, someone’s playing you. It can be an affectionate term as well sometimes with your close friends.
[Former Crew] Jamal Sutton got the nickname JaMuppet. I called him that one day at training when he was having a bad day. That stuck pretty well. There’s been a few Muppets here.